The difference in the purposes of non-profit and profit organizations determines their communication approaches. When it comes to their Twitter strategy in the context of climate change would they be more willing to share one-way information or try to engage the community in a dialogue? And how would they use Twitter’s features to achieve their goals?
Kim Holmberg and Iina Hellsten’s publication “Organizational communication on Twitter: Differences between non-profit and for-profit organizations in the context of climate change” (2016) analyzes the use of Twitter specific affordances – hashtags, mentions of usernames, sharing of URLs, etc., and the communication strategies the organizations use in order to reach their targeted audiences.
About the research method
A sample was retrieved from a dataset of over 1 million tweets collected through Twitter’s API between October 26, 2013, and January 10, 2014. It was composed by tweets sent from Twitter accounts of for-profit companies (for example, clean energy or sustainable building companies) or non-profit organizations (for example, organizations campaigning to raise awareness about climate change) that contained the words “climate change”. The sample consisted of 1,520 tweets sent by 16 companies and 1,042 tweets sent by 18 non-profit organizations.
Twitter affordances and communicative strategies
Twitter is a platform that can enable the engagement with different stakeholders and help to broadcast information about key activities. The specific technical features or affordances of that medium can influence the way organizations structure their message. Some of these affordances are the opportunity to re-tweet messages, the use of hashtags to specify shared interests, the option to disseminate URLs as well as mentioning of other usernames. The profit and non-profit organizations may use these affordances in order to accomplish different communication strategies:
- Information sharing – messages that clearly disseminated some information from online sources and that did not contain any additional commenting or recommendations by the tweeter
- Community building – messages contained responses to earlier messages, gave recognition or thanks to someone, or acknowledged some upcoming events
- Call for action – promotional messages encouraging others to participate in an event or a campaign of some kind, they requested donations or volunteers, or they were lobbying for something and asking people to participate
What are the findings?
When it comes to Twitter specific affordances were used in a different way by the two types of organizations. Non-profit organizations shared more hashtags than profit-organizations, in particular hashtags related to campaigns and events, while both use URLs almost in every tweet. Non-profit organizations are more active in targeting others on Twitter. In addition, non-profit organizations use hashtags linked to campaigns and climate related events, while profit organizations preferred hashtags related to climate change in general, areas influenced by climate change and various energy solutions.
Regarding communicative strategies, it was observed that non-profit organizations use Twitter predominantly for engaging in community building and calls-for-action. In comparison, profit organizations’ tweets were almost entirely (96%) about information sharing about climate change and by doing so they were showing their engagement in the issue.
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